This rich, spicy pate is popular throughout the Middle East with each country having their own variation of flavourings added to the two main ingredients of walnuts and roasted red peppers. In Turkey it’s name is Acuka, and it’s fiercely picante, in Syria it’s Muhammara. You, of course can make it as mild or spicy as you prefer.
For the red pepper flesh, either roast about 400 grams of thick fleshed peppers in a hot – 180C – oven until the skin is slightly charred and blistering. The peppers can be roasted over a glowing fire or barbecue as well of course. Remove to a container with a lid and leave to cool.
Skin the peppers and remove the seeds and stem keeping any juice that flows out of them. We are aiming for about 300 grams of flesh including any juices.
Alternatively, if you can get hold of a jar of ready roasted and skinned Pimientos de Piquillo, these can be used for making a quick dip.
So you will need –
300 grams red pepper flesh
50 grams walnut pieces
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon allspices/ pimienta de Jamaica
1/4 teaspoon black or mixed peppercorns
1 clove garlic
1 small chilli or more to taste
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon plus 2 tablespoons of its juice
2-3 heaped tablespoons dried breadcrumbs
Toast the walnut pieces in a thick based pan on a low heat, turning them over from time to time until they ara golden colour at the edges and you can smell their rich scent emerging.
Put to one side to cool.
Now put the cumin, allspice and peppercorn seeds in the same pan and toast until their aroma is detectable.
Put them into a small food processor and whizz to a powder.
Add the pepper pulp, garlic, olive oil, a pinch of salt and the lemon juice and zest. Whizz to a fine purée.
Add 2 of the tablespoons of breadcrumbs and pulse to mix in.
Leave for about half an hour for the breadcrumbs to absorb the liquid in the purée and thicken it. If it is not the texture of a spreadable pate and is too liquid add more breadcrumbs.
Add the toasted walnut pieces and pulse to mix in to the pate and be cut up a bit smaller but not too small.
I made this to have with the Potato and Chickpea Cakes in the previous post using ingredients that are currently in season here. Fragrant green peppers from the huerta, this years almonds which I love dry toasted in their skins, big winter radishes and plum tomatoes from the local market.
You will need –
Several leaves of red oak leaved lettuce
2 medium tomatoes – chopped into chunks
2 samall or 1 large green pepper
about 20 whole almonds – either with skins or if you prefer without
1 large cooked beetroot – cut into smallish cubes
Winter radish – about 20 thin slices
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablesoons water
1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup
2 tablespoons extra virgen olive oil
Start by steeping the radishes. The large winter radishes can be quite peppery, so a sweet marinade will make them less so. Mix the vinegar water and honey or syrup in small bowl, then add the radishes. Leave to marinate for at least ten minutes.
Meanwhile dry toast the almonds in a thick based pan over a low heat. Stir regularly to ensure that they are evenly toasted and a little browned. Remove from the heat and put to one side.
Rip up the lettuce leaves and arrange them on a large plate, then add the chopped tomatoes.
slice the green peppers and arrange on the salad.
Remove the radish slices from their marinade and arrange them over the salad.
Put the beetroot in the marinade and stir to cover all the cubes.
Spoon the cubes and vinegar over the salad, then sprinkle on the almonds.
There are so many recipes for falafel both in cookery books and online that it’s difficult to decide which to go for. Personally I’m not keen on the ones that use ready cooked chickpeas, for me the texture is too mushy and wet compared to the traditional recipes that start with dried chickpeas. The only thing with using dried peas is remembering to start soaking them the day before you want them, so a tad of planning ahead is needed, but otherwise they are simple and easy to make.
This makes 4 falafel
75 grams dried chickpeas
1/2 a small onion
1 large clove of garlic
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon of Garam Masala or 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or coriander
oil for frying
Start the day before you want to eat the falafel by soaking the chickpeas in plenty of cold water. Because it’s so warm here I changed the water every few hours so that it didn’t start to ferment, or you can put the container of peas in the fridge to keep it cool.
Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic. Put in the bowl of a small food processor and whizz to chop.
Add the drained chickpeas and the rest of the ingredients.
Whizz to chop up. You will have to open the processor and scrape the ingredients from the sides several times to ensure an evenly chopped paste.
What you are aiming for is a slightly rough mixture that will just stick together.
Heat a good layer of oil in a frying pan on a medium heat.
Form your mixture into four even sized rissole shaped cakes and gently put into the hot oil.
Cook for about 10 minutes before carefully turning the cakes. If they are not crisping up on the cooked side turn the heat up slightly, and if they are getting too brown too quickly turn the heat down.
Cook for 10 minutes again on the second side adding more oil if the pan is getting too dry.
Once cooked remove the falafel from the pan and blot any excess oil with kitchen paper.
Serve with salad and a sauce, I had mine with my Chill Jam, Tahini Sauce is good and also Yogurt with cucumber and mint.
After the somewhat complicated Sarma recipe, here are a couple of super simple potato dishes. Oven chips are so easy to make if you have a good powerful oven, a fan oven is best to get chips that are crispy round the edges.
Put a large baking sheet in the oven and set it to warm up at 200 C
Peel your potatoes and cut them into whatever chip shape is your preference.
Put them in a bowl with a pinch of salt and just enough olive oil the coat the chips.
Spread your chips out on the preheated tray, they do better if they are not too crowded and put in the oven for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel and slice a clove of garlic, and slice up some mushrooms. It’s more tasty if you have more than one type of mushroom, I used shiitake and oyster.
After the chips have had their 20 minutes of cooking, take the tray out of the oven and with a spatula turn them over. Strew over them the mushrooms and garlic, then put the tray back in the oven for another 20 minutes by which time everything should be brown and crispy and gorgeous.
This recipe comes from my Bosnian father. It would be made in the winter when tightly packed white cabbages were in season. The cabbage leaves are used to wrap a filling of meat and rice, which is then cooked in tomatoes and stock and finally thickened with a brown roux. We always made Sarma a couple of days before wanting to eat it as the flavour is so much richer after time. Now that I no longer eat meat I have been experimenting with vegetarian fillings for the cabbage rolls, after a couple of tries which tasted good enough but didn’t hold together like the consistency of the original versión, I turned to textured soya, which is a bit on the sweet side, but with the addition of seasonings and an egg to bind it, it worked well.
For 2 servings
1 large white cabbage
400 gram tin peeled or chopped plum tomatoes
1/2 red pepper – chopped into small cubes
1 – 2 litres vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
MEAT FILLING per person
150 grams minced beef or lamb
1/4 onion – finely chopped
1 clove gárlic – finely chopped
50 grams long grain rice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
VEGETARIAN FILLING per person
50 grams texturised soya – soaked in water for 20 minutes and then drained, or as instructed on the packet if different from the brand I used.
50 grams long grain rice
3 sun dried tomatoes – chopped into medium chunks
1 teaspoon/ 5 ml marmite
1 teaspoon / 5 ml Maggi Wurze
1 small egg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE SAUCE
2 tablespoons / 30 ml plain flour
2 tablespoons / 30 ml olive oil
You need to start with the cabbage. Put a pan of water on to boil in which the cabbage can fit whole, bear in mind that you are going to submerge the cabbage, so not so much water that it will spill over once the cabbage is in it. Remove any dirty or damaged outer leaves from the cabbage. Make a cut in the base of the stem of the next outer leaf to release it from the main stem, then the following one. You may find that the first few leaves will come off the cabbage easily without being damaged, if not put the cabbage in the boiling water to blanch them and separate the leaves. One by one cut the leaves at the base to loosen them and then put the cabbage in the boiling water to remove them without any damage. You are wanting 2-3 leaves per person.
Once you have enough leaves, and maybe a spare or two, put them two or three at a time in the boiling water for about three minutes each until they become slightly translucent and a more pliable texture, then drain them and let them cool.
Next, to help the leaves roll nicely, get a potato peeler and shave off the outer ridge of the leaf base until it’s thin and flexible.
Now prepare your fillings. Whichever version you are making put all the ingredients for it in a bowl and mix well. Form your mix into two or three fat sausage shapes per person, squeezing the mix together so that it holds its shape.
Put each sausage into a cabbage leaf and roll the leaf around the filling.
To secure the rolls, tuck the ends inwards starting in the centre and tucking in round and round until you have a neat roll.
Put all your rolls into a pan where they will fit in one layer. They don’t want to be too tightly packed as they will expand.
Add the chopped tomatoes, red pepper and enough vegetable stock to cover the rolls.
Bring to a simmer, turn the heat down very low and cook slowly for an hour and a quarter. Check the liquid level from time to time and add more stock if needed.
Let the dish cool for half an hour, then carefully take out the parcels and transfer them to another dish leaving the sauce in the pan. I put mine into an ovenproof dish in which I was going to reheat them the next day.
To thicken the sauce you are going to make a brown roux. Put the oil and flour in a small frying pan, mix together to blend, then on a medium heat cook the roux stirring all the time until it caramelises and turns a medium nut brown.
Turn off the heat and add the tomato sauce from the Sarma a bit at a time and mix well to blend. With the first spoonful the roux will go thick and dry looking, don’t worry, keep adding the sauce and all will be well.
Once you have added enough of the tomato sauce to have a liquid, tip this into the pan of tomatoes in which you cooked the Sarma and heat the sauce to thicken it stirring all the time.
You can now replace the cabbage parcels, reheat the dish for 15 minutes and serve it, or pour the sauce over the parcels in an ovenproof dish and leave to cool, to be then reheated in the oven the next day or the day after that.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water seasoned with salt and a splash of olive oil.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan and add the artichokes and garlic. Fry on a medium heat turning the artichokes over regularly until they are just cooked and lightly browned. Turn off the heat.
In a small food processor whizz the hazelnuts to chop them small.
Add the milk and whizz more.
Add half the artichokes to the nut mix and whizz again to achieve a thick paste. Season with salt and pepper.
If you are using cheese add two thirds of it to the purée and pulse to mix.
When the spaghetti is about cooked, put the heat back on under the artichokes in the frying pan. Add the puréed artichokes and a spoonful or two of the pasta cooking liquid to make a thick sauce. Heat gently to warm up.
Drain the pasta from its water reserving a bit in case the sauce needs more.
Add the pasta to the artichokes and mix well to coat the pasta with the sauce.
Serve with either a sprinkling of finely chopped parsley or the rest of the cheese if using.
It’s a cool drizzly day today and I have been busy sowing peas and planting lettuce so that they can benefit from the dampness. So after that, a warm hearty lunch is required. My first thought was to make a vegetable paella, and I found that I’d forgotten to buy rice but while looking in the cupboard I saw that I had fideuá. These are small pasta, usually, but not always, rice shaped, that are cooked in place of rice in a paella pan with similar ingredients to a paella. As with paella Spanish cooks vary the ingredients depending on what vegetables are in season, and of course if you are a meat or fish eater, then small pieces of these can be added to your ingredient list.
Today’s fideuá – this makes two portions
70 grams fideua
1 large spring onion – sliced
1 large spring garlic -sliced
2 shiitake mushrooms – halved and sliced thinly
150 grams fresh broad beans
half a picante green pepper – cut into small cubes
200 grams courgette – cut into bite sizedcubes
150 grams fresh globe artichokes – prepared, sliced and fried
1 large tomato
few sprigs of thyme
pinch of saffron threads
pinch of smoked pimienton/paprika
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Prepare your artichokes first. I had some left from a previous dish. Clean the artichokes down to the tender leaves. Top and tail them. Cut into thin slices and fry immediately in olive oil until about half cooked. Remove from pan.
Add more oil and fry the onion, garlic and green pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent.
Add the mushroom and stir in. Cook for a couple of minutes
Add the courgette, stir in and let fry for five minutes.
Cut the tomato in half and grate the flesh up to the skin into a bowl. Discard the skins.
To the pan add the tomatoes, pasta and broad beans. Stir to mix.
Add the seasonings and then enough stock to come just to the top of the pan contents. Turn the heat down low, cover the pan and let cook slowly for five minutes.
Add the artichokes and more stock as needed.
Check the liquid level in the pan every few minutes until the pasta is cooked. If you are using the rice shaped pasta this will only be another five to ten minutes, other thicker pastas will need longer. The dish does not want to be as dry as a paella.
Once the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat and leave to sit for 5 minutes before serving with wedges of lemon to squeeze over.
We had a reasonable, for here, amount of rain before the shortest day of the year, and now we have warm sunny days and cool damp nights, the result of which is that the countryside is blooming with Spring plants and flowers. Many of these are edible and begging to be foraged. There is wild garlic and asparagus on the hillsides, and by the sea, samphire and ice plants.
Part of the mesembryanthemum family, these succulent faintly salty leaves are delicious in salads. It’s easy to see why they have the name iceplant as they seem to be covered in tiny glistening ice droplets.
These plants like the Sandy soil near to the sea and are frequently found next to Samphire. Pick the tender shoots that are sprouting at this time of the year. You may have to part the sturdier tough stems at the top of the plants to find the more tender leaves underneath.
Give them a good wash in two or three changes of water, and then they are ready to use.
This salad has a particularly delicious dressing which perfectly complements the iceplant leaves.
Iceplant Salad & Soy Sesame Dressing
150 grams ice plant leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds to garnish
I had garlic cloves which I had roasted with vegetables the day before, but if you are starting with raw garlic, fry them very slowly in a little oil until they are soft.
Mash the garlics in a small bowl.
Add the rest of the ingredients except the sesame seeds and mix well.
Slice up the iceplant leaves and put into a salad bowl. Add the dressing and mix well.
I love plain buckwheat pancakes for breakfast with a fresh fruit salad, but sometimes it’s nice to have a more spicy start to the day so these spiced up pancakes with a fresh tomato relish fit perfectly.
This amount makes enough pancakes for 6 servings
125 grams buckwheat flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
1 heaped tablespoon garam masala spice
1 fresh red chilli – finely chopped
1 spring onion – cut in thin slices
pinch of salt
275 ml vegetable stock
Olive oil for frying
Mix all the dry ingredients together with the spring onion and chillis.
Break the egg into the stock and mix well.
Gradually add the liquid to the dry ingredients to make a smooth batter.
The batter can be used straight away but improves if kept in the fridge for a day or two, so if you don’t use it all at once the rest can be kept very well for another day.
Heat oil in a small frying pan and when hot pour in a small cupful of batter. Fry until golden before turning over and frying the other side.
For the tomato relish simply cut a well flavour tomato into dice and season with salt a finely chopped fresh coriander leaves.
Strozzapreti, meaning ‘priest strangler’ as it is reputed to be enjoyed so much and in such quantities by the holy fathers that it chokes them, is a rolled pasta that goes very well with this tomato sauce. You can of course use other pastas if you can’t get hold of Strozzapreti.
120 grams pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove of garlic – finely chopped
1 small onion – finely chopped
1/4 red bell pepper – cut into short slices
2 tablespoons chopped Florence fennel
125 grams button mushrooms – halved and then sliced
200 grams chopped plum tomatoes
2 heaped teaspoons tomato purée
fresh oregano finely chopped plus a few sprigs for garnishing
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese if you are making the vegetarian but not vegan version of this dish
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put salted water with a splash of olive oil on to boil for the pasta, and then cook the pasta according to the timings on the packet.
Meanwhile heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and onion. Fry until translucent.
Add the red peppers and cook for á couple of minutes before adding the fennel and mushrooms. Stir well and leave to cook for five minutes.
Add the chopped tomato, purée and oregano. Cook slowly for 15-20 minutes until the sauce looks thick and richly red.
Season with salt and pepper.
If using the Parmesan cheese, add most of it now leaving a little to sprinkle on top of the pasta and stir into the sauce letting it melt.
Once the pasta is cooked but still with a little bite, drain from the water and add it to the sauce. Stir to mix.
Serve in shallow bowls with a grating of orange zest and a few sprigs of oregano to garnish. Of course if you are including Parmesan in your dish then add a garnish of grated cheese as well.